Sonic Equipment struts its stuff

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
John Taylor sends a putt toward a hole at Sonic Equipment Company in a game meant to raise money to buy fans for the needy. Looking on is Sonic employee Jim Huskey. Visitors to the Sonic plant during an Iola Area Chamber of Commerce “After Hours” played the game and won Sterling 6 Cinema tickets by holing the ball.

Three years ago when Iola High’s Fillies won the class 4A state basketball title, the three games of the tournament could have been shown live on a Sterling 6 Cinema screen with digital projection equipment now in place at the theater.
Jim Huskey, an employee of Sonic Equipment Company, mentioned that feature while telling visitors about digital theater equipment manufactured and marketed by SEC during an Iola Area Chamber of Commerce “After Hours” late Wednesday afternoon.
Sonic Equipment, 900 W. Miller Rd., earlier was recognized as the Chamber’s Business of the Year for 2009. The “After Hours” events give Chamber members an opportunity to learn in detail what other businesses do and also become better acquainted.
Huskey was one of several employees on hand to give visitors an in-depth look at what SEC does.
He noted that the digital projectors — one at Sterling 6 Cinema was just recently installed — are as versatile as they are innovative. The projectors permit theaters to show movies in three-dimensional effect and through computer connections with digital cameras on site, can put events on the large theater screen as they’re happening elsewhere.
Movies and other presentations are downloaded to the apparatus and stored simultaneously on three discs, giving the projector a redundancy that is next to foolproof. If the internal computer detects a glitch on one disc — it’s done ahead of when the image is shown — it moves to a second disc.

SONIC EQUIPMENT Company was started in the 1970s by Sterling Bagby with the name, Sonic Signs. The company moved to Iola in 1982, with the Bagby family’s purchase of the B&B Theatres chain. Sonic became the service company.
Eric Olson, director of operations, moved to Iola to “learn the business” in 1995, when the company had four employees. Robert Bagby, son of Sterling Bagby, purchased the company in 1999 and became president, a position he continues to hold.
According to information from the company Web site, Sonic had grown to eight employees by 2000 and changed its focus from strictly the B&B Theatres chain to any and all theaters. Over the next four years Sonic built 14 theaters and increased its service route by 100 screens.
In 2000, Sonic was divided into two companies, REB Construction and Sonic Equipment Company, as growth continued. The two companies provide a full package to build and install equipment in new theaters. In 2004, Sonic had 14 employees.
In 2005, focus of the company shifted to include retail sales outside the theater business. Sonic became a supplier of Little Giant ladders and began to sell concession equipment.
Today Sonic has grown to over 20 employees and is situated in its spacious new plant that has offices, manufacturing and repair areas and display venues. The company performs service on nearly 400 screens in eight states with more theater construction on the way. Retail sales are global and the customer base is growing daily.
A mission of Sonic is to make digital packages realistic for independent theater owners, as well as smaller theaters.
Sonic isn’t focused altogether on new theaters. The company prides itself with being the go-to source for installation and service of digital equipment in existing theaters.
Services range from building and equipping an entire theater to finding replacement parts for projectors. Its service department can repair or build virtually any type of 35mm projector and soundhead in use today, as well as other types of theater equipment, such as lamphouses, popcorn machines and even seating systems.